Magazine article Anglican Journal

Trafficking: A Global Tragedy

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Trafficking: A Global Tragedy

Article excerpt

LOOKING INTO THE issue of human trafficking takes you to some very dark places. Described by the United Nations as the world's fastest growing organized crime, the trafficking of people into forced labour or sexual slavery is a massive problem, with victims all over the world, including Canada. Most of them are women and children.

Throughout the Anglican Communion, people are recognizing the need for action, and Anglicans are asking what they can do to help end the suffering. Last May, the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica passed a resolution proposed by the International Anglican Women's Network.

It called on the Communion to support the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, including trafficking. And last November, Hellen Akwii Wangusa, Anglican observer and personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the UN, worked with the diocese of Hong Kong to organize and sponsor a conference on trafficking.

The conference was held in Hong Kong, she said, to help support the church in Asia where trafficking is a big issue. She added, however, that the issue has become so politicized that people in the church are afraid of speaking out because of the danger of being victimized or classified as antigovernment.

Reached in January, Wangusa said the conference achieved more than expected, but also acknowledged that reports from those who work with victims as well as victims themselves made the "gravity of the situation" seem overwhelming.

According to one estimate from the U.S. State Department's 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report, about 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders. This does not include the "millions" trafficked within their own countries. A 2006 report from the same agency estimated that 800 people are trafficked into Canada each year with 1,500 or more travelling through Canada to the U.S.

Wangusa said she was pleased to learn that some Anglican churches are already working to stop trafficking. The delegates at the conference, including Canadian youth delegate Keira Constable of Montreal, heard a priest from a parish in the Himalayan region of India talk about how his church helped rescue a young girl who had been promised a job but was actually sold as the bride of a 60-year-old man. Although traumatized, the girl is now back with her family.

"We need to set up partnerships with organizations that are already working," to end trafficking, said Wangusa. She noted that Anglicans in the Communion have started to work with UNICEF and ECPAT, an international organization working to end child prostitution, pornography and trafficking. "They have had some successes and they also want to learn from us about the successes [such as the one in India]," she said.

One Canadian veteran of the fight against trafficking is Brian McConaghy, a former RCMP forensic scientist. In 1989 he founded the Ratanak Foundation, an ecumenical Christian charity, to do relief and development work in Cambodia. He started to help trafficking victims only after the Vancouver police, investigating videos of child pornography found on the Internet, asked him to help identify locations in Cambodia in 2004. Although it took McConaghy only 72 hours to pinpoint where the crimes were being, carried out, he was so affected by the images of abuse that he left his career with the RCMP two years short of a pension to work full-time with the Ratanak Foundation. …

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